Earlier this month, HBA Basel hosted a memorable event in honor of International Women’s Day. The event was ”All About Networking and Lipstick Leaders”, and brought together 40 participants to celebrate, to network and to join a discussion with Daniel Eisenhut, the featured speaker and author of the “Lipstick Leaders” art project.
The event was opened by Stefanie Zechner, HBA Basel president, who took the opportunity to welcome all guests and to present the new HBA look and feel as well as the mission and vision of the association. Then Magdalena Kurpierz, the founder and CEO of Kvalito Consulting Group and sponsor of the evening, set the scene for the discussion “What is leadership? Are you a leader when you lead a team? Is there a difference between men and women leaders? Is leadership intro or extrovert? Is it more female or male?”
Coaching up to 120 women officers in the Israeli Army was a live changer for Daniel Eisenhut. Inspired by their strength, vision and leadership, the artist decided to make it a topic of his project. The “Lipstick Leaders” project - a women leader portrait series - came alive by the end of 2016 when Daniel started drawing portraits of female leaders from different walks of life. But it took off the ground only later when he interviewed and portrayed women leaders from the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos. All portraits - captured in charcoal on white canvas - have one red bright element: the red lipstick.
It was picked up upon instantly by Frederike Sommer, SVP with Bench International, who moderated the discussion: “Why do you need to put lipstick?” Using lipstick is meant to provoke and raise questions on gender roles in general, Daniel answered. The intention behind the Lipstick Leaders project is less about defying prejudices but more about recapitulating human perceptions. As Daniel said - the more we allow ourselves to look at the social preconceptions we have as society, the freer we are to embrace them and move on.
There were many learnings and observations Eisenhut collected on the journey through his project, below resonated best in the discussion with the audience:
- Your strength comes from your authenticity regardless of your gender. It is even more important if you are a woman – do not try to behave like men, trust yourself, believe in yourself, practice being your real true self rather than pretend to be someone else. Be yourself, even if you are being provoked or stigmatized. Trying to put on a different mask, a different persona will consume you.
- If you were asked to visualize a leader it would be a stereotype of a strong man. Leadership is human. It is about capabilities. A successful leader drives with passion, commitment and excitement, regardless of gender.
- Female leaders are often falsely accused of being tough if they do not smile. Leading people is a responsibility and so leadership is a serious thing.
- The gender parity and equality topics require for men to be also included into the discussion. It is about us and not about women and men. The paradigm shift can only happen when both parties are involved, heard and considered.
To make the evening a truly remarkable happening and to capture the essence of the discussion there was a surprise gift awaiting every participant – a small box by Mary Kay with a powerful gift – a lipstick.
HBA Basel would like to thank all participants, speakers and sponsors for making the IWD event a platform for insightful discussions and great networking which we hope to continue through our upcoming happenings. A special thank you to Daniel for adding the red, eye catching and discussion steering detail in the world of “black and white”.